Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Pronounced 'kee-sa-de-yas' these have become a Friday night favourite. They are so quick and handy and it isn't that hard to keep the wherewithal to make them in the fridge and larder. They're the sort of dinner that everyone eats with their fingers and a napkin in dribs and drabs. I warn you - you'll have to keep them coming. It's hard to give a recipe as what you put in them depends on your taste; it would be like giving a recipe for a sandwich. Consider this more of a method. I've specified our favourite combination but I also make a ham and cheese one for the little man and have on occasion made them with chicken if that's what I have lying around (and of course you can do a vegetarian version). Make them as hot or as mild as you like.

Quesadillas (11)


Tortillas (at least 1.5 per person)
Spring onion, chopped
Red Jalapenos, chopped (for heat)

Quesadillas Quad

1. Lay your ingredients out on half the tortilla.

Quesadillas (13)

2. Put a frying pan on over a medium heat.

3. Fold the empty side of the tortilla over the filled side and brush the outside of the bread with a little olive oil.

4. Place the tortilla, oiled side down, on the frying pan. (I can fit two tortillas in my pan but if you can't just do one at a time).

Quesadillas (19)

5. Brush the other side of the tortilla with oil and flip over after a few minutes (you can peek at the underside to see if it's browned).

Quesadillas (20)

6. Cut into three and serve.


You can make them by covering the whole tortilla with filling then placing another on the top and frying it unfolded but I find this way much easier to manage.
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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sauage, Apple & Potato Casserole

Sausage, Apple & Potato Casserole (1)

I invented this dish when I was on maternity leave before JT was born. I had four weeks leave and had planned loads of baking and cooking only to find that I couldn't stand on my feet for any length of time. So this was a way of preparing a hearty dinner without having to stand over a chopping board or hot stove for any length of time. The chopping is minimal (everything is in wedges) and I cook this in the oven, although you could do it on the hob to speed things up. Don't worry about precise quantities in this dish - you can adjust the quantities to suit your personal taste/requirements without doing any damage.

Serves 2

3 pork sausages
2 apples
5 potatoes (or as many as you want per person)
1 onion (red or white)
Hot chicken stock (about 300ml)
Handful of chopped rosemary
1 tblsp honey
2/3 tblsp olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 210oC

2. Cut the potatoes into wedges (I don't bother to peel them) and the sausages into bite-sized chunks.

3. Place in a casserole dish (I use a large rectangular one) and coat in a few tblsp of olive oil.

4. Put in the oven for 10 mins. During this time cut your onion into wedges.

5. After 10mins add the onion to the dish, toss to coat in the oil and return to the oven.

6. Chop the apples into wedges and after a further 10mins add them to the dish, again tossing everything around. Add the hot stock, pouring in just enough to come about half way up the dish. Add the chopped rosemary and return everything to the oven for 1/2 hr.

7. Finally drizzle a tablespoon of honey over the whole dish and return to the oven for 10mins. (I sometimes mash the apples roughly at this stage to thicken the sauce a bit).

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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Meaty Nachos

This is one of my favourite quick and easy suppers. It's become very popular with my two men so I always keep the wherewithal to make this in the cupboard and freezer. It's easily adapted to suit JT. I like to fire it up and add lots of heat but you don't have to and if you prefer you can keep things on the mild side. In fact, treat most of the ingredients as optional, that is except for the tortilla chips, mince, salsa and cheese. Think of this a bit like a pizza - the tortilla chips are the base, the mince and salsa the toppings and then finally the cheese. I assemble at the last minute but frequently fry the mince mixture ahead of time and let sit in the pan (although it only takes a few minutes to fry it anyway). Although I recommend that you eat this fresh if you're having it for your main meal, we nearly always have a little bit left over that I cover with cling film and put in the fridge for the next day - a quick blast in a hot oven will do the necessary re-heating.

Meaty Nachos Quad

I must add that my knowledge of nachos and mexican cooking is practically zilch. I know the general make-up of it and I enjoy eating it but I don't know the finer details and distinctions. In fact, I don't know if these count as nachos at all but that's what they look like to me!

Meaty Nachos
Serves 2 (plus a baby)

200g (approx) bag of Tortilla Chips
500g minced beef
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic*
1/2 tsp cumin*
1 tsp paprika*
1/2 tsp ground coriander*
1 tsp cayenne (you could substitute this with some chilli flakes or chopped jalapenos)*
Dash of worchester sauce*
Dash of soy sauce*
1 tblsp sweet chilli sauce*
1 jar salsa
Cheddar, grated to top the nachos

*You could simply replace all these with a sachet of mexican spice mix


1. Finely chop the onion and garlic then fry over a medium heat for a few minutes.

2. Add the mince and continue to fry until the mince is cooked. Note: At this point lift out some 'plain' mince mixture for any babies or young children and set aside.

3. Add the spices and then the sauces to the pan and continue to cook for another minute.

4. Pre-heat the grill to high.

5. Spread the bag of tortilla chips over a large platter. Don't forget to put a few chips on a plate(s) for any bab(ies). Spoon the plain mince mixture onto their chips now to give it time to soak into the chips and soften them a little.

6. Spoon the meat mixture over the top of the tortilla chips.

7. Using a teaspoon, dot the salsa as evenly as you can over the meat mixture.

8. Finally top with the cheese and grill for about a minute - keep an eye on it the chips can burn easily. Any babies dishes I simply top with a little grated cheese and don't bother melting it.

I use a fish slice to serve it on to plates but your hands would do just fine. It's really a tear and share sort of dish. Enjoy!

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Monday, 5 October 2009

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Choc-Cherry Cupcakes (18)

This was the September Nigella Cookalong. I like taking part in the Nigella Cookalong because it pushes me to try some of her recipes that I wouldn't otherwise. And these were exactly one of those recipes. Cupcakes can be much-a-do about nothing and while I love decorating them actually eating them doesn't excite me all that much. But these were such a surprise. They're lovely and moist - almost fudgey. And since I used a red and black cherry conserve instead of the specified morello cherry jam (simply because I couldn't get it) ther're wasn't an overpowering sour cherry taste. To top it off they're so simple. This is a one-pan recipe. Everything gets melted in one saucepan then poured into paper cases. Such a simple but delicious crowd pleaser to have up your sleeve.

(For The Cupcakes)

125g soft unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g cherry conserve
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour
12-bun muffin tin and papers

For The Icing
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
12 natural-coloured glacé cherriesServing Size : Makes 12


1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4.

2. Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan on the heat to melt. When nearly completely melted, stir in the chocolate. Leave for a moment to begin softening, then take the pan off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melted. Now add the cherry jam, sugar, salt and eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon and when all is pretty well amalgamated stir in the flour.

3. Scrape and pour into the muffin papers in their tin and bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out.

4. When the cupcakes are cool, break the chocolate for the icing into little pieces and add them to the cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and then whisk – by hand or electrically – till thick and smooth. Ice the cupcakes, smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon, and stand a cherry in the centre of each.

Choc-Cherry Cupcakes (6)

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Sunday, 27 September 2009

September Daring Bakers: Vol-Au-Vents

Vol-Au-Vents (14)b

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

Vol-Au-Vents (4)

To be honest, I wasn't sure how I felt about this challenge. I was pleased that I was being pushed to make puff pastry and as a result would extend my skills but I wrestled with a filling. I wanted to do something sweet but couldn't get away from savoury ideas and finally settled on two fillings. One was a chicken,vegetable and cream cheese filling so that the vol-au-vents I made would become a complete meal for us and hopefully please JT. The second was caramelised red onion and creme fraiché to create a more elegant side dish or canapé.

I haven't included a detailed recipe or instructions for the puff pastry the reason being that I figure no-one is coming here looking for that level of expertise. I have given details of the fillings because perhaps you'll buy a block of puff pastry and make the vol-au-vent cases or even buy the pre-prepared cases to fill. If anyone wants details on making puff pastry I'll gladly email you the recipe.

I enjoyed the challenge of it but I'm not sure I'd do it again. The all-butter puff pastry you buy in the shops is a great substitute and, since the recipe requires a whole block of butter, it's not much more expensive.

Vol-Au-Vents (2)


Will fill SIX 3" Vol-Au-Vents


2 Chicken Breasts, chopped
2 Handfuls of Frozen Veg
3 tblsp Plain Flour
200ml Hot Chicken Stock
125g Cream Cheese
Small handful of fresh thyme


1. Fry the chicken in a little olive oil in a large frying pan until cooked.

2. Add the frozen veg to the pan and cook for a few minutes more.

3. Add the flour and toss everything to coat.

4. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the hot chicken stock. Continue to cook for a few mins stirring until the liquid thickens (add more hot water if necessary).

5. Add the cream cheese and stir to incorporate. Add the thyme and season to taste.

6. To plate up, spoon some mixture into each vol-au-vent.

Vol-au-Vents 2 (8)b


Will fill FOUR 3" Vol-Au-Vents

1 Red Onion
200g tub cremé fraiché (whole tub not required)
1 tbslp balsamic vinegar
1tsp soft brown sugar
1 tblsp butter


1. Halve and then slice the onion finely.

2. Sauté the onion in the butter in a frying pan with the lid on over a low heat until soft (about 5 mins).

3. Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and stir. Continue to sauté with the lid on for a few mins more.

4. To plate up, put a tblsp of cremé fraiché into each vol-au-vent then top with the red onions.

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Monday, 21 September 2009

Bacon & Cheese Muffins

Cheese Bacon & Onion Muffins (20)b

These were yet another attempt to create little handy morsels for JT. And what winners there were (with everyone). They would be absolutely delicious with soup. And they're great for lunchboxes because a few seconds in the microwave softens and reheats them without much damage. I like them warm with butter. JT likes them with red sauce (which goes without saying for those who are familiar with JT's eating habits).

I made a full tray of 12 and stuck what was leftover in the freezer, then just reheated then from frozen in the microwave on medium setting. Enjoy!

Bacon & Cheese Muffin Quad

Cheese and Bacon Muffins


1 packet of bacon (6-8 rashers)
1 sm or 1/2 large white onion, chopped finely
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
125ml vegetable oil
150ml yoghurt
1 egg
80g cheddar


1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200oC and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Fry the bacon until starting to crisp. Remove from the pan, finely chop and set aside.

3. Fry the onion in the bacon grease over a low heat until softened. Set aside with the bacon.

4. In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

5. In a jug mix together the yoghurt, egg, and vegetable oil.

6. Add the bacon, onion and cheese to the dry mixture and give it a good stir. Then pour in the contents of the jug and stir until just mixed - do not overmix!

7. Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases and bake for 25-30mins. You can test with a toothpick if you like. Don't let them brown too much on the top - you don't want them to be crunchy, although if they are they're still lovely.

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Monday, 14 September 2009

Smashed Potaotes

Smashed Potatoes (6) edited

Elegant name isn't it? But that's literally what these are and the 'smashing' makes all the difference. It give the potatoes a crispy edge when finished. I've been trying to squeeze these in before all the baby potatoes disappear from the shelves. These are just perfect for now when the baby potatoes on the shelves aren't the quality of the first summer crop.

Smashed Potatoes (1)

This is more a method than an exact recipe as how much you make depends on how many you're feeding. I first came across this idea in a food magazine years ago. It was an article written by Jill Dupleix and I logged it in my mind but never got round to trying it out. Then another food blogger posted about this very method at the start of the summer. I gave it a go and we've been having these practically every Sunday since with our roast dinner. I tend to boil and prep them mid-morning and then pop them in the oven for 20mins when I come home from church (i.e. you could make them in advance up to roasting point if you're having guests then just finish off when they arrive).

Smashed Potatoes (3)

Make more of these than you think you'll need - I guarantee you they'll be eaten.

Smashed Potatoes


Baby Potatoes (do not peel)
Fresh Rosemary, chopped (you could replace this with thyme)
Oil (olive, vegetable or sometimes I use garlic oil for the flavour)


1. Par-boil the baby potoates until just tender - you don't want them mushy and they will be getting a while in the oven later. Drain.

2. Drizzle oil over a baking tray and spread with your hands. Place the potatoes on a single layer on the tray.

3. Using a potato masher, press on each potato to flatten. You don't want them flat as a pancake but you do want them to burst open and their flesh to start spreading.

4. Sprinkle salt and chopped rosemary over the potatoes and drizzle them with oil.

5. Roast in a hot oven (about 210oC though if your oven is at something close to that for the meat don't change it, just roast the potatoes for slightly longer/less) for about 20mins. I say 'about ' - when you see the edges starting to brown and crisp they're ready.

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Saturday, 12 September 2009


And the winner is........Comment #2: JoL !!!!!

Congratulations JoL. I hope your future other-half enjoys the benefits of this. I'll contact you by email for your address and post the book out to you at the start of the week.

To the rest of you - keep an eye out. I had fun with this and hope to do it again soon.
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Monday, 7 September 2009


This is to encourage all you lurkers and skulkers out there to make a comment - you know who you are!!!

Just for fun I'm giving away a brand new copy of James Martin's 'James Every Day'. I really like this book and was so tempted to keep it but I really don't need another cookbook. I have made a mental note of some of the recipes however. There's some real nice stuff in there. How about 'Roast Celeriac with Vanilla and Garlic' or 'Caramelised Beetroot' or 'Chorizo, Butter Bean and Truffle Oil Soup' ?It's a whole collection of meat, chicken, fish, salads and desserts.
I'm leaving it open until Saturday afternoon to give those who check in here weekly a chance to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment on my blog telling me what's your favourtie recipe I've posted so far (you don't have to have made it).

All entries before 5pm (GMT) on Saturday evening. The winner will be randomly selected (using a random number generator) and I'll announce the winner on the blog on Saturday night.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Banana Tea Bread

Banana Bread 39b

I had my eye on the banana bread recipe in 'How To Be a Domestic Goddess' for a while before I got round to baking it. The original recipe required rum or bourbon, which I don't keep, so I went on the Nigella forum asking for suggestions for a replacement. One forumer in the Middle East replied that until she got her alcohol licence she just soaked the sultanas in tea. "Of course!" I thought. I have a tea loaf recipe that I've made time and time again which requires you do the same and the tea gives it a lovely flavour. Using tea instead of rum/bourbon makes this a very affordable recipe and I confess to actively checking out the reduced section of the supermarket for reduced overipe bananas purely to make this.

And the all-important factor is that my two men love this. I like it toasted with butter as breakfast, JT gets it just plain at any time of the day and Daddy likes a slice buttered in his lunchbox. It would make a great dessert too, slightly re-heated with a scoop of ice-cream.

Banana Bread (3)b



100g sultanas
A cup of strong hot black tea
175g Plain Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g unsalted butter, melted
150g sugar*
2 large eggs
4 small, very ripe bananas (about 300g weighed without skin), mashed
60g chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin, buttered and floured or with a paper insert

Serving Size : Makes 8–10 slices


1. Put the sultanas into a smallish bowl and pour over the hot tea. All the sultanas should be covered. If there's not enough tea just add some more boiling water. Set aside while you go ahead with the rest.

2. Preheat the oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3.

3. Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a medium-sized bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.

4. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts and vanilla extract. Drain the sultanas and stir them in too. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.

5. Scrape into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1–11/4 hours. When it’s ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in the tin on a rack to cool, and eat thickly or thinly sliced, as you prefer.

*I have made this with caster, granulated and brown sugar and there is little difference. I found that using granulated provided a slightly cumblier texture.

Banana Bread (16)

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Thursday, 27 August 2009

August Daring Bakers: Dobos Torte

Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular DobosTorte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

When my sister decided to come up and visit for a few days I decided that it would be a good opportunity for me to make this month's challenge. She could keep an eye on JT for an hour, if needed, and we could have the torte as dessert. My poor sister ended up looking after JT most of the afternoon and was still waiting on her dessert at 9pm! It took much longer than expected and I didn't get it finished until dark which is why I have only one decent photo to show for all my efforts.

Aside from time issues I found it to be a success. I'm not a cake person - a big lump of sponge just doesn't do it for me - but I found the whole layered cake thing very pleasing. It meant each forkful contained a blend of both buttercream and sponge. It wasn't a difficult project I was just juggling it with dinner and time at the park. I divided the sponge mixture into 6 and just poured each sixth into an 8" sandwich tin (lined with greaseproof paper) to give each layer a nice uniform shape. I hope to give it a go again only this time I would make mini dobos tortes by making one large sheet of sponge and cutting out rounds using a cookie cutter. I wouldn't bother with the caramel topping - nobody ate it and it was too hard and stuck in our teeth. I'm just waiting on the right guinea pig!


Sponge cake layers
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) icing sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour sifted together)
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream
4 large eggs, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
110g bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:
NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:
NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.

3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.

4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Note: Make sure the butter is of a very soft texture i.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you'll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.

2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.

3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.
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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Broccoli Slaw

Broccoli Slaw 16b

The first time I saw this recipe I knew I'd love it. In fact, since my two men don't eat broccoli, despite my best efforts, I made up a whole bowlful for myself. This is a great extra to bring to the table. It is delicious in sandwiches but most often I make a bowl of it for the table when I'm serving ham (and I have visitors). It keeps well for a few days and is very easily put together. I make it ahead of time and just keep it, covered in clingfilm, in the fridge until needed.


Broccoli Slaw
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 head broccoli
50g flaked almonds*
50g dried cranberries*
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
*You can add more or less of these according to taste

60ml buttermilk
80ml mayonnaise
1 tblsp cider vinegar
1 tblsp maple syrup

Trim broccoli, cut into chunks then finely chop. I use a food processor and I throw in most of the stem.

Toss the chopped broccoli, almonds, cranberries, and red onion together in a large bowl.

Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a pinch of salt.

Stir the dressing through the broccoli mixture. That's it!

Broccoli Slaw 19b
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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Think Pink!

Last week I promised my neice, Cousin Soph to JT, that she could come up a day to bake. Today, when I was out shopping, I noticed a jar of pink edible sprinkles and I immediately thought of Soph. Soph LOVES pink. Everything has to be pink. I threw them in the trolley and made a mental note to keep that promise a day soon. Later on when I was at home unpacking the groceries I lifted out the sprinkles and thought, "Why not now?" So I texted her mum and she arrived within the hour. We discussed the design brief, pink, and settled on watermelon lemonade and cupcakes with pink icing with pink sprinkles and she got to work with uncontained excitement.

Sophie Cupcakes Quad

And I mean she got to work. I am a firm believer in letting children have a go in the kitchen. So what if she weighs out a bit too little flour or a bit extra butter, what's the worst that can go wrong? I guarantee that no matter what's missing or what extras are in the mix it'll taste a million times better than anything else because she made them. I help and advise, of course. It's amazing the teaching opportunities that an hour of baking holds.

Sophies Cupcakes Duo

She weighed and beat and spooned and piped. You want to have seen the delight on that little girls face when I filled a piping bag up with pink icing and told her, "Here you do it yourself!" And she added the red food colouring to create the perfect shade of icing, which I think deserves the description 'shocking pink'.

Sophies Cupcakes (12)b

The watermelon lemonade was less exciting - just watermelon, sparkling water and a squeeze of lemon and sugar to taste but it was the fact that she was making a pink drink that pleased her.

No recipes today because everyone has a cupcake recipe somewhere and doesn't need another one.

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Saturday, 8 August 2009

Foodie Gifts

Choc-coated Honeycomb Box

Isn't this just so pretty? What do you think it might contain?

Chocolate-coated Honeycomb!

Choc-coated Honeycomb b

I love giving and I love receiving food gifts. They don't have to be home-made, I'm always delighted with a box of chocolate or a few buns lifted from the giver's local bakery. Home-made ones do have an edge, of course. But homemade or not I think it's the thought process that goes into food gifts that make them such a delight to receive.

Like the Raspberry and White Chocolate scones that my mum nearly always brings when she comes to visit because she knows I love them. Or the bag of coffee beans a friend brought a couple of months ago because she knows I'm fanatical about good coffee. Or the time my sister brought a pot of chilli because my baby had just been born and she knew that my OH isn't a great cook (sorry honey)! I could go on and on but you get the point, each of these gifts had a thought process behind them that conveyed the givers efforts to please.

I think my favourtie to date has been the box of macarons that my friend brought one Sunday we were having her and her husband for dinner. She knew I had been tackling macarons and that I was a bit obsessed with them. So she arrived with these:

Amandas Macarons

What a delight! And the box really finished it off. What a lovely way to present them. I'm always giving food away in tupperware boxes or tins and it kind of bugs me. They just don't do the food justice. And then there's the awkwardness of having to ask for your box back because you know if you don't you won't see them for months and it'll be forgotten about. So recently, I've made more effort in the presentation department. I went to my local bakery and they sold me a few plain white boxes which already look so much better. And then I started making boxes from some fancy papers I have in the house. As a Maths Teacher I've been making cube and cuboid nets for years but this is even less complicated than those. I literally cut out a square/rectangle (size determined by prospective contents) and score it 1" from each edge then fold the edges up and stick in place to form the base. Repeat with another piece of card to form the top and voila - a very pretty box. You can adorn it as you fancy (ribbon, diamante etc) or just leave it plain. Despite looking very fashionable and expensive it actually works out cheaper than buying a gift bag. Of course you don't need fancy papers you could just use two contrasting or complementary sheets of plain card (e.g. pink and brown). Or you could even just cover a box you have. And the next time you see some cheap tissue paper - buy it and throw a bit in your box before you put in the food.

Choc-coated Honeycomb c

Last night we were out at friends for tea. I knew that the host would go to a great deal of effort to make at least one (probably two) desserts and she wouldn't want to see me arriving with a third as there is only her and her husband to eat the leftovers (there's that thought process). So, I opted for chocolate-coated honeycomb that I knew they could nibble at over the next few days. And guess what? - I made a box to make it look special.

So go and glam up your foodie gifts!

P.S. Chocolate -coated Honeycomb is simply half the quantity of hokey-pokey dipped in 200g milk chocolate (use whatever chocolate you think the recipients will like).
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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Maple Pecan Muffins

Maple Pecan Muffins

I think I may just have found the muffin recipe I have been looking for. I love sweet bread (e.g. banana bread, wheaten bread etc) for breakfast and recently I have taken to making muffins to satisfy this craving. For a number of reasons (a) they are easy to make and bake fresh in the morning and (b) I generally have the wherewithal to make them in my cupboards.

Maple Pecan Muffins

Now while I have had some very pleasing results with the muffins I have baked of late, a lot of them have been too sweet for breakfast. But not this one. It is from Nigella Lawson's book 'Feast' adapted slightly, of course. She describes the maple pecan combination perfectly as having a 'smoky austerity'. I will re-iterate though - they are breakfast muffins. The maple syrup give them their sweetness and the wheatgerm and pecans gives them a sort of 'wholesome' taste. If you want something sweet as a dessert, it's not these.

And when I say bake fresh in the morning I mean I measure all the dry ingredients into a bowl and cover with cling film and similarly measure all the wet ingredient into a jug and leave, covered with cling film, in the fridge. I even put muffin cases into a tin. Then in the morning I mix the contents of the jug and the bowl, pour into the cases and stick in the oven. By the time I have my little one up and changed they're ready for us (yes, he's a fan too). I spread a little butter on mine but you don't have to or you could, of course, drizzle over a little maple syrup.

Maple Pecan Muffins



125g shelled pecans
275g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
50g wheatgerm
pinch salt
125ml yoghurt
125ml maple syrup
125ml sunflower/vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tblsp dark brown sugar

Serves 12*


1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200oC. Line a 12-bun muffin tin.

2. Chop the pecans roughly, reserving about a quarter of them to use later to strew on top. Combine the rest of them with the flour, baking powder, wheatgerm and salt in a large bowl.

3. In a measuring jug (or another bowl), whisk together the yoghurt, maple syrup, oil and egg.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix to combine but do not overmix. The mixture will still be lumpy. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.

5. Chop the reserved nuts a bit finer and mix with the brown sugar and then sprinkle a little on to the top of each muffin. Don't skip this step as it just completes each muffin beautifully. Bake for 20 mins. They will have risen but will not be very brown apart from the sugary topping.

6. Remove from the tin to a cooling rack and eat while they are still warm (with butter or maple syrup)!

*I halved this recipe without any difficulty or ill-effects. I just added what I thought to be half of the beaten egg (and used the other half to dip my little ones bread in for lunch)!
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